The move occurred on the 25th anniversary of the AMIA community center bombing in Buenos Aires.
BUENOS AIRES—Argentina has designated Hezbollah a terrorist entity and has ordered the freezing of the group’s assets, the first Latin America country to do so.
The move occurred on the 25th anniversary the bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) community center in Buenos Aires. On July 18, 1994, a suicide driver blew up a van filled with explosives, destroying the headquarters of the Jewish community, killing 85 people and wounding more than 300.
Hezbollah member Ibrahim Hussein Berro was identified as the AMIA bomber.
Additionally, a Politico bombshell in December 2017 exposed the network of money-laundering and other crimes done by Hezbollah, including operations in Latin America, for which the Obama administration let pass in order to reach the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
“Argentina took a very important step today,” Emanuele Ottolenghi, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told JNS. “By designating Hezbollah [as such], it showed leadership in the fight against terrorism and terror finance.”
“Now others must follow Argentina and show they are ready to tackle this threat,” he added. “Hezbollah’s presence in Latin America is well-documented, and this is a welcome change in a part of the world where governments, including Argentina’s neighbors, have for too long looked the other way.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised Argentina’s move. Meeting with Argentine President Mauricio Macri in Buenos Aires, Pompeo commended Argentina for its regional leadership in hosting the Western Hemisphere Counterterrorism Ministerial, and the two leaders pledged to continue cooperation to combat transnational crime and terrorism.
He said he was moved by the country’s touching tribute to the victims of the AMIA bombing.
“The memorial was a powerful reminder that the hemisphere is not immune from the sting of foreign terror,” Pompeo said.
The attack by Hezbollah, Pompeo said, was the reason why the Trump administration slapped sanctions against Salman Raouf Salman, the suspected “mastermind” and “on the ground coordinator” behind the AMIA bombing, with the US Treasury announcing a freeze of his assets and a $7 million reward for information on his location, according to the i24 News report.
Argentina also blames Hezbollah for an attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 that killed 29 people.
According to a Washington Post report, in an opening statement to the gathering of 18 nations in Argentina’s capital, Pompeo said that international terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State “continue to seek a lasting presence in our hemisphere.”
“The roots of these terror groups may be many miles away, but their branches twist around the globe — raising funds, seeking recruits, probing for our weaknesses, challenging our defenses,” Pompeo said.
But “Iran-backed Hezbollah,” he said, is a particular threat in South America, where it has long maintained active fundraising and recruiting efforts in the tri-border area of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, and in Venezuela.